Illustration by Daniel Vasconcellos, vasky.com.
In my home, cookies are usually gobbled up before storing them becomes a problem. However, in late November and early December when I bake a lot of cookies for later holiday enjoyment and gifts, storage is an issue. Thankfully most cookies keep or freeze well.
Here’s a handy guide for safely saving your cookies this season.
Counter storage tips
Many types of cookies keep well in a container on the counter for a short period. Here’s how to make sure they’ll stay fresh for up to a week. See cookies by type for more specific storage steps if needed.
Allow cookies to cool. This keeps them from getting soggy.
Group cookies by type. If you store crisp and soft cookies together, the soft cookies end up crisp and the crisp cookies turn soft.
Store mint-flavored cookies separately from all other cookies; otherwise, all the cookies in the container will soon be peppermint flavored.
Allow icing to firm before storing cookies.
Place a layer of waxed paper between cookies as you stack them.
Store cookies in a container with a tight-fitting lid.
Freezer storage tips
Most cookies freeze well if you need to store them for a longer period, but you have to take some steps to prevent them from drying out or getting freezer burn. See cookies by type for more specific freezing steps if needed.
Allow cookies to cool completely.
Stack cookies in a plastic freezer container or slide cookies into a large plastic freezer bag, separating the layers with a piece of waxed paper.
Freeze cookies without icing or jam filling. Wait for these additions until you thaw the cookies completely.
Storing cookies by type
Freezing the dough: Not recommended
Freezing baked bars: Cut the cooled pan of bars into squares. Follow the general freezer storage tips above. Freeze up to four months. When ready to serve, allow the bars to thaw, about two hours, before icing.
Counter storage time: About four days
Freezing the dough: Drop the dough rounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, close together but not touching. Slide the baking sheet into the freezer for two hours or until the dough is hard. Transfer the frozen dough balls to a large freezer bag. Freeze up to three months. Bake dough from frozen on a parchment-lined baking sheet according to the recipe directions.
Freezing baked cookies: These can be frozen up to three months, but crispy cookies often turn soft when frozen. Freeze as dough and bake when needed for crispy results.
Counter storage time: About five days
Freezing the dough: Not recommended.
Freezing baked cookies: Follow general tips above. Freeze up to one month.
Counter storage time: About three days
Freezer storage: Not recommended
Counter storage time: Up to one week; up to one month for rum balls.
Roll-out and slice-and-bake cookies
Freezing the dough: For roll-out cookies prepare the dough and pat it into rectangular loafs. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and again with aluminum foil. Freeze up to three months. Allow the dough to thaw before rolling.
You can also roll out the dough, cut it into shapes, freeze the unbaked cookies on cookie sheets, and then transfer to a plastic freezer container, placing waxed paper between the layers. When ready to bake, place the frozen cut-outs onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and put into the oven without thawing.
For slice-and-bake cookies, wrap the dough log tightly with plastic wrap and again with foil. Freeze up to three months. Thaw before cutting into rounds. Bake as directed for both types of frozen cookies, according to recipe directions.
Freezing baked cookies: Freeze up to three months, following the general freezer storage tips above.
Counter storage time: One week to 10 days.
Three types of icing are commonly used for finishing holiday cookies: royal icing, confectionery glaze and buttercream. Whether you are icing your cookies before storing them on the counter or after freezing and thawing, follow these tips:
Make royal icing and confectionery glaze right before using, or it will dry out.
Buttercream icing can be made up to three days in advance. Store it in the refrigerator, allow it to come to room temperature and stir before using